English as an Additional Language

Some parents reading this book may themselves have English as an additional language. Some schools have a majority of students with English as an additional language, others have none. How schools manage students with English as a second language is an issue for all parents.

  • A school which has any students with English as an additional language, (EAL), should have a designated staff member with the responsibility for EAL. A school with even a small minority of EAL students should have an EAL department. The EAL department will help students access the curriculum. A good department will promote multi-culturalism across the school.
  • The EAL department will be responsible for supporting any new students joining the school who do not have English as their first language. Parents without children in this position may think this irrelevant to them; but it is not. A school that has a strong induction programme for students for whom English is a second language, shows it values cultural diversity. Equally importantly, it indicates that the school is anxious to help new students access the curriculum quickly. This supports teachers and is to the benefit of everyone in classrooms.
  • If your child does not speak English at home, it is important that you investigate the EAL department. The quality of this department will strongly influence how well your child will be supported in their English literacy.
  • If your first language is not English and you would benefit from school communications being translated, it is important that you find out whether this service is offered by the schools you are interested in.
  • Parents whose children have English as their first language are often concerned that they will be held back if they attend a school with a lot of EAL students. I have rarely found this to be the case. If anything, the reverse often occurs. If there are non-English speaking students in the class, then the teacher is forced to be innovative about the way they present  ideas. Having non-English speaking students in the class often means there will be an EAL teacher or assistant present, which means that everyone has access to more support.
  • Often students who speak two languages, one at home and one at school, are sophisticated learners and consequently help to establish a dynamic learning environment.

Further Information


The ‘Information about this school’  section will include details about the first languages spoken by the pupils.

Open Evening/Visit

Visit the EAL department, or talk to the member of staff with responsibility for EAL.  Ask the student showing you round what happens to students at the school who do not speak English. The student should be clearly aware of a support system and have observed it in their lessons even if they do not have English language needs themselves.

Case Study


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